Sal Barone: “This is probably going to be the biggest game of the Members Cup so far. It’s going to be a great atmosphere.” (Photo courtesy of the Cosmos)
With no playoffs to determine the NPSL Members Cup champion, every regular-season game counts.
On Saturday, the undefeated New York Cosmos and Detroit City FC clash at Keyworth Stadium in Hamtramck, Mich. in a game that could go a long way in deciding the league title.
The Cosmos enter the match with a 4-0-1 mark and 13 points while Detroit hasn’t given up any points with a 3-0-0 record and nine points. Someone’s championship hopes will be dented when the 7:30 p.m. match ends around 9:30.
“This is probably going to be the biggest game of the Members Cup so far,” midfielder Sal Barone. “We’ve been preparing for that. We have been looking forward to it, too, because we know that they draw a big crowd. It’s going to be a great atmosphere. A lot of guys are excited for this trip.”
Added center back Matt Lewis: “It’s pretty important for us. We know it, Detroit knows it. This is kind of the collision course. It has been leading up to this for a few weeks. Our mentality really hasn’t changed. We go into every game wanting to win. There’s a little more at stake with points and everything. We need to take points from them at this stage in the league, especially after dropping two to Milwaukee. We need to take all three. So, it’s a very vital game for us.”
Lewis was referring to the Cosmos’ 2-2 home draw with the Milwaukee Torrent in which the team conceded two late goals and saw two points fly out the window.
Now, the Cosmos are in a position to extract key points for a team vying for the championship.
Detroit City FC has outscored its foes, 7-1. Forwards Yazeed Matthews leads squad with two goals.
“They’re a very good team, a team that battles, that works hard, that’s on the same page,” Cosmos head coach Carlos Mendes said. “We have to be at our best. … They got good support, so it’s the type of games you want to play in.”
Despite its importance, the Cosmos hasn’t prepared for the match no differently than other games.
“We just prepare the same and make sure training is good,” Mendes said. “The preparation and mentality is the same. We just have to make sure that we execute, that we focus, that we put a complete game, too. Even the little details, the set pieces are going to be a big part of this game. We have to be ready to battle first off and hopefully, our game plan and the way we can control possession, hopefully, that will take over.”
The Cosmos are undefeated in NPSL and Members Cup road matches the past two years with an impressive 14-0-0 record. Mendes would love to make it 15 successive wins.
“It shows character,” he said. “We’re comfortable at home and going on the road. The stats and everything else go out the window. This is a key moment, very important. We’re coming down to the last couple of weeks of the season. We’re playing a team that’s right there with us. They haven’t even tied a game. We have to make sure again we’re secure defensively, that don’t give up anything easy as a team. No easy goals and we’re patient in the game. And make sure even it’s 0-0 at the half or 0-0 late in the game that we keep our control about us and stick to the game plan.”
In the Members Cup, the Cosmos have recorded two clean sheets — 1-0 at Chattanooga FC and 2-0 Michigan Stars. During the recent NPSL regular season, they conceded only five goals in seven away contests.
“We definitely have been solid as a defense for the most part,” Lewis said. “As a team defensively, we can be better in some of the bigger games we played. When we play bigger teams, I don’t know what it is. It’s important that we lock in this weekend, defend hard for 90 minutes, the same way we did in Chattanooga. Tough environment, tough conditions, we defended really hard.”